I’d be tempted to say that the recent meteor crash in Russia was a preview of our own extinction, but that would probably be wrong. It’s more likely we’ll find a way to off ourselves long before the inevitable asteroid arrives. That’s a shame, because I’ve always thought there was something fitting about being wiped out by a gigantic rock from space. It’s nature’s way. Here are we, violent apes who build skyscrapers, strutting around thinking we’re the apple of some deity’s eye, convinced the universe was created just for us, and then bam, done in for all eternity by some insensate, relatively commonplace astronomical occurrence. It turned out we weren’t any more special than the dinosaurs. I like that. It just makes sense.
Most people used to put their money on nuclear war as our most likely path to oblivion. It was a reasonable enough bet, and there was a logical beauty to that as well. Nuclear conflict combined two of our most dominant characteristics: brutality and scientific efficiency. For a while it seemed inevitable, imminent even, but then the threat receded, and everyone was happy except the Defense Department. The danger is still there, of course, but it’s not as immediate as it once was.
Well, leave it to our clever species to throw an even better addition into the doom lottery. This one, perhaps, is the most apropos of all. We’re just going to sit on our asses drowning in garbage and prattling about “growth” while the planet slowly bakes us to death. No sudden explosions. No brilliant flashes of light. Just a gradual descent into disaster that plays out in slow motion right in front of our faces, and we’ll have let it happen because a bunch of money-grubbing MBAs (and worse) convinced everyone it was all a hoax.
You could call it a tragedy in the classical sense: Our species is being brought down by its own immutable character flaws. True enough, but that drapes too much grandeur on the real nature of our predicament. In reality our situation more closely resembles a low, seedy farce.
On a different note, tomorrow is President’s Day, and Chester A. Arthur, John Tyler, Benjamin Harrison and Rutherford B. Hayes won’t be remembered once again. For shame, all you Philistines, for shame.